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Stephen Echols v. Morpho Detection

February 27, 2013

STEPHEN ECHOLS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MORPHO DETECTION, INC.; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY; TRANSPORTATION SECURITY AGENCY; AND JANET NAPOLITANO, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Claudia Wilken United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING FEDERAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (Docket No. 36) AND CONTINUING CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

United States District Court For the Northern District of California

Defendants United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and Secretary of 14 Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (collectively, Federal 15 Defendants) move to dismiss three of the claims asserted against 16 them by Plaintiff Stephen Echols. Plaintiff opposes their motion 17 and, in his opposition brief, requests leave to bring additional 18 claims against them. The Court takes Federal Defendants' motion 19 under submission on the papers and GRANTS it. The Court also 20 grants Plaintiff leave to file a motion for leave to amend his 21 complaint to assert new claims against Federal Defendants. 22

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's first amended 24 complaint (1AC). 25

In September 2004, Plaintiff began working for Invision Technologies. 1AC ¶ 8. That company became or was acquired by 27 Defendant Morpho Detection, Inc. in or about 2009. Id. Morpho 28 Detection has contracts with DHS and TSA to provide airport 2 security. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiff was employed as a field service 3 technician at the Los Angeles International Airport. Id. at ¶ 8. 4

Prior to March 9, 2010, Plaintiff passed all government 5 airport and company background checks that he underwent. Id. 6 In or around January 2010, TSA required all of Morpho Detection's engineers, including Plaintiff, to undergo an "eQuip 8 background investigation." Id. at ¶ 10. 9

Plaintiff received a letter from TSA dated March 9, 2010, 10 stating that he was "ineligible to work on any TSA contract based on the following issues identified during" the background investigation: 13

CRIMINAL CONDUCT

* GRAND THEFT, $/LABOR/PROP $400, 1/1/2007, Gardena Police Department, CA.

* BURGLARY OF IDENT/ 1 COUNT OF THREATEN CRIME WITH INTENT TO TERRORIZE/ 1 COUNT STALKING, 2/9/1999, 17 Superior Court Los Angeles, CA. Sentence: CONVICTED, probation/jail 240 days/36 months.

* MAIMING/ASSAULT & BATTERY, 11/25/1990, Hampton Police Department, VA. Sentence: 6 months suspend, 6 months for 5 years.

HONESTY

* You failed to list most recent charge, GRAND THEFT, $/LABOR/PROP $400, on your SF85P. 23 1AC ¶ 11, Ex. 2 (all errors in original).*fn1

Plaintiff alleges that he was not the person who committed 2 the crimes identified in the first or second items under "Criminal 3 Conduct" or the item under "Honesty" and that he "was the victim 4 of identity theft." Id. at ¶ 13. He also alleges that the third 5 item under "Criminal Conduct" was "inaccurate in that the 6 plaintiff recalls the case was dismissed." Id. 7

In March 2010, Plaintiff received a telephone call from his 8 manager, David Fox, who told him that he was being placed on 9 suspension with pay. Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff was terminated on 10 March 31, 2010. Id. at ¶ 16.

After he received the letter from the TSA, Plaintiff communicated "with TSA and Morpho explaining the identity theft 13 issue and the alleged conviction in 1990." Id. at ¶ 15. Despite 14 his repeated requests, TSA failed to provide Plaintiff with a copy 15 of his background report. Id. 16

Plaintiff filed this case on March 29, 2012, originally 12 17 asserting claims against Morpho Detection only. Docket No. 1. On 18 October 12, 2012, the Court granted the parties' stipulation to 19 allow Plaintiff to file his 1AC. Docket Nos. 23, 25. 20

In his 1AC, Plaintiff asserts four claims against Federal 21 Defendants: (1) willful violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act 22 (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1681x; (2) negligent violation of the 23 FRCA; (3) violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 24 U.S.C. § 552; and (4) declaratory relief that Plaintiff is 25 eligible to be employed by the federal government or organizations 26 that require passage of the eQuip background check. As relief for 27 his FCRA claims, among other things, Plaintiff seeks "damages 28 exceeding $300,000.00 which is the approximate equivalent of four 2 (4) years of salary with the related benefits." 1AC ¶¶ 23, 25. 3 Federal Defendants move to dismiss the FCRA claims and 4 declaratory relief claim. In the instant motion, they do not seek 5 to dismiss the FOIA claim. 6

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) 8 Subject matter jurisdiction is a threshold issue which goes 7 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 9 to the power of the court to hear the case. Federal subject 10 matter jurisdiction must exist at the time the action is 11 commenced. Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Cal. State Bd. of Equalization, 858 F.2d 1376, 1380 (9th Cir. 1988). A federal 13 court is presumed to lack subject matter jurisdiction ...


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